- Good 2D performance
- Good connectivity
- Shutter glasses included
- Poor 3D performance
- Poor software
- Cheap, wired glasses
- Review Price: £299.10
- Full HD, 120Hz, 23.6in screen
- Stereoscopic, 1080p 3D
- iZ3D software included
- Active shutter glasses included
- VGA, DVI and HDMI
It’s a pretty safe bet that 3D is here to stay, and that’s no bad thing. Some of the kinks we mentioned in our 2009 article haven’t been worked out yet and not everyone is convinced by the extra dimension (some even experience unpleasant side-effects such as mild headaches and nausea), but we think most will agree that it definitely adds something to the experience. One of the main factors holding people back is price of entry, with the majority of 3D TVs still demanding significant premiums and, on the PC side of things, Nvidia’s 3D Vision transmitter and wireless glasses alone setting you back £100.
But now AMD has entered the 3D game, and we’re taking a look at one of the first products to incorporate its certification: ViewSonic’s ‘Fuzhion’ V3D241wm. This Full HD, 23.6in monitor comes with a pair of wired active shutter glasses for under £300, making it a potential bargain.
From its front, the V3D241wm looks like most other budget TN monitors (check out the prices on 3D IPS and you’ll see £300 really is budget), with a glossy, black plastic bezel and stand. Although it does a reasonable job of hiding greasy fingerprints, it will still require far more maintenance than the matt back and sides. These sport a more durable, matt finish, which we wish ViewSonic had used throughout.
Either way, it’s no NEC MultiSync EX231W, and lacks the daring lines of some other 3D monitors like Acer’s GD245HQ. A bright blue LED just above the silver power button at the bottom bezel’s centre might also be distracting for some, and can’t be switched off or dimmed in the monitor’s OSD.
Assembly is as easy as pie, merely requiring you to slide the base into the stand. Unfortunately, though unsurprisingly, adjustability is limited to tilt. Build quality is reasonably solid with the exception of the lower bezel, where a protruding plastic lip lacks a rear frame to back it and therefore comes across as a little flimsy. The whole monitor weighs 5.1kg and energy usage is frugal, never going higher than 25W.
Connectivity is certainly on the good side of decent, with VGA, DVI and HDMI covering every video front, though the HDMI is not of the fully 3D-compatible V1.4 variety, so dual-link DVI is the only choice when using the monitor in the third dimension. For audio, 3.5mm inputs and outputs join HDMI in providing a versatile selection and allowing you to hook up external speakers to displace the integrated efforts. ViewSonic includes VGA, HDMI and 3.5mm cables.
Four silver buttons recessed slightly behind the V3D241wm’s bezel on the right let you navigate the monitor’s OSD with relative ease. Enter, Up, Down and Back intelligently double as Menu, brightness/contrast control, volume adjustment and input selection.
The OSD itself is basic but not unattractive, and certainly far easier to navigate than the prettier but more complex efforts found on many rival screens. It also gives access to a good selection of options, including the ability to turn dynamic contrast on or off and to adjust response time. Our only annoyance (and unfortunately it’s somewhat of a major one) is that there are no presets. So you can’t, for example, set the screen to full brightness for 3D gaming and its lowest brightness when switching to office productivity. Though you can compensate for this in software, if would have been nice to have a hardware selection.
Getting to the V3D241wm’s Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), 23.6in panel, in 2D it holds up rather well. Contrast is decent (though the claimed dynamic figure of 20,000,000:1 is a total farce), and while we couldn’t get both light and dark tones to show simultaneously, at the cost of white purity the screen at least displayed a good amount of dark detail and inky blacks. This was helped by even light distribution, except for some bleed along the bottom edge.
Horizontal viewing angles were also as impressive as TN tends to get (though IPS technology, as found in the NEC MultiSync EA231WMi, shows how it should be done). In other words, you should be able to watch a film with a few friends without issue. Inevitably, vertical viewing angles were a lot poorer, and you can get significant contrast shift if you don’t tilt the display just right.
Colours were well-saturated if not particularly accurate, but then this is a display aimed completely at entertainment anyway. In that regard, its 120Hz refresh rate doesn’t just benefit 3D but also helps when playing fast-paced games where it reduces ghosting. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the ViewSonic to run at 120Hz using the latest Catalyst drivers on a Radeon 6850, and at 60Hz, trailing was definitely visible. Other artefacts such as dithering and banding also made a minor appearance, but are hardly significant issues considering this ViewSonic’s target market.
Considering how poor integrated monitor speakers usually are, the V3D241wm’s 2W stereo speakers are somewhat above-average. They’re up- rather than down-firing and make good use of their SRS processing, while actually managing a modicum of bass. They’re not particularly clear or accomplished, but hooking up headphones or external speakers for superior audio isn’t a problem with the 3.5mm audio output.
So far, so good, but 3D is where things start going down-hill for the V3D241wm. First there are the glasses, which are cheap and cheerful. They’re fairly sturdy and even reasonably comfortable, but by no means as ergonomic as the wireless specs Nvidia provides with its GeForce 3D Vision system, and they look like something from the bargain bin in your local pound shop. Also, because their USB cable is permanently attached, they can only be unplugged at the monitor end, resulting in a lot of fiddling about when you want to re-attach them after a tidy-up. An extension cable would have been an inexpensive yet excellent solution here.
However, the V3D241wm’s biggest failing has little to do with hardware and everything to do with software (or so we hope for ViewSonic’s sake). You see, AMD doesn’t have its own 3D standard, leaving it to third parties to come up with solutions for 3D gaming and video. ViewSonic has chosen to partner with iZ3D, which has been in the business of providing drivers for passive, active, stereoscopic and anaglyph (the hideous red and green glasses solution of yore) 3D for a long time now. Surprisingly then, its software isn’t all that good.
First of all, there’s the interface, which looks amateurish at best and doesn’t make it easy to navigate. For example, who would think of looking for test and setup screens under Help? Then there’s the way it works – or rather, doesn’t work. Though we tested only recommended titles on iZ3D’s compatibility list, one resulted in a black screen while another had its menus messed up (where you would need to click in a randomly different place to where your onscreen pointer appeared to be), though the game itself worked fine.
Admittedly, most titles didn’t suffer from these specific problems, but the worst issue was an interlaced effect once the monitor went into 3D mode. We could understand if the V3D241wm was displaying passive 3D, but this effect makes no sense on a 120Hz active system (check out our 3D TV Buyer’s Guide for the lowdown on the different 3D types). It resulted in a headache-inducing experience severely lacking in sharpness, which was more tiring than fun.
We tried installing TriDef, which is a more polished software alternative and should, in theory, have been compatible with ViewSonic’s latest. Unfortunately, though games worked perfectly and were displayed in stereoscopic 3D without fail, the hardware didn’t recognise it was supposed to go into 3D mode, rendering TriDef unusable in this case.
As the V3D241wm is a very new product, we’re hoping iZ3D will iron out the major bugs sooner rather than later. Even then it seems inevitable that Nvidia solutions will be superior, more integrated and with a higher compatibility level. We feel the best solution would be for AMD to adopt a similar, first-party approach, or integrate more tightly with third-party solutions.
When it comes to value, this £299 ViewSonic isn’t easy to qualify. On the one hand, the company offers a complete 3D solution with good connectivity and image performance for less than many competing efforts. On the other, as things stand it’s one of the most frustrating displays we’ve yet used for 3D, to the extent that we would gladly pay more for an alternative.
Cheap but not so cheerful, ViewSonic’s V3D241wm may offer decent hardware, but frankly it was difficult for us to tell through iZ3D’s buggy software. Hopefully these issues will be ironed out soon, but until then this is not a 3D display we can recommend.
Score in detail
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